01/12/2011 03:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New Study Explains Late-Day Scarceness Of Cabs

If you've ever had the feeling that it's impossible to find a cab in the late afternoon, there is now statistical proof that you aren't nuts.

New data proves that, just before the afternoon rush, cab drivers across the city switch off their "on duty" lights.

From the New York Times:

From 4 to 5 p.m., the traditional hour for cabs to change shifts, the number of active taxicabs on the streets falls by nearly 20 percent compared with an hour before, according to a city review of GPS records taken from thousands of cab trips over the past year.

David Yassky, chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, says the data supports the oft touted belief that cabs are hardest to find around rush hour.

"It's not just urban legend, Yassky says. "It's a real dip."

The Times explains that the drop in available cabs happens because taxis are often shared by two drivers a day, each pulling a 12-hour shift.

To make each leg equally attractive, taxi owners schedule shift changes in the middle of the afternoon, to ensure that each includes a rush hour. So, at around 4 p.m., many cab drivers go off duty and drive back to their garages, frequently located across the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City.

The Bloomberg administration is still trying to figure out what to do, if anything, about the now confirmed drop in available taxis.

Yassky says the city "should be circumspect about substituting its judgment for the judgment of business people."

Former Mayor Ed Koch is not pleased with the rush hour crunch for cabs.

"One of my law partners remarked on the fact that at 4 o'clock, you can't get a cab," Koch says. "Wouldn't it make sense to have a substantial number of cabs on duty at all times?"